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By Ashvaghosha, Patrick Olivelle

The Buddhist monk Ashva·ghosha composed lifetime of the Buddha within the first or moment century CE most likely in Ayódhya. this is often the earliest surviving textual content of the Sanskrit literary style known as kavya and doubtless supplied types for Kali·dasa's extra recognized works. the main poignant scenes at the route to his Awakening are while the younger prince Siddhártha, the longer term Buddha, is faced by means of the truth of disease, outdated age, and loss of life, whereas seduced by means of the charms of the ladies hired to maintain him at domestic. A poet of the top order, Ashva·ghosha's objective isn't leisure yet guideline, offering the Buddha's instructing because the fruits of the Brahmanical culture. His magnificent descriptions of the our bodies of courtesans are finally intended to teach the transience of beauty.

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Example text

A few of these verses have been reconstructed into Sanskrit by J o h n ­ s t o n on the basis of the Chinese and Tibetan translation; these I have given within square brackets. My rendering of these verses missing in the Sanskrit manuscript, as well as the summaries of the last cantos, are based on J o h n s t o n s translations from the Chinese and Tibetan. In his argument for the superiority of the Buddhist dharma, Ashva-ghosha alludes to numerous Brahmanical myths, legends, and stories. W ithout at least a basic familiarity with this mythological background, it is difficult to follow his argument.

His focus is on kdma, the sensual pleasures that a young person of wealth and power should indulge in. This accords with the efforts of Shuddh6dana to surround his son with pleasure and comforts so that Asitas prediction that he will repair to the forest would not come true. In Canto 4 we see Prince x x x iii LIFE OF THE BUDDHA Siddhartha, who had already seen the signs that pointed to the suffering and impermanent nature of life, surrounded by royal courtesans in a lovely royal park. Their job was to entertain the prince and draw him into a life of sensual indulgence.

We see this also in the visual remains from the Kushana period where the Buddha is often flanked by Brahma and Indra, the creator and the king among the gods. 6 Even more significant, however, is the implicit undercur­ rent of the entire text that compares the Buddha to signif­ icant Brahmanical figures of the past. 10). 81 cited above): I envy the king who was Indra’sfriend, the wise son o f King Aja; When his son went to the forest, he went to heaven, without living a miserable life and sheddingfu tile tears.

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